If I have to listen to Let It Be or Get Back or whatever is the most appropriate title for this most ridiculous project, Let It Be . . . Naked wins by a landslide.
Whatever your preference, this effort remains the weakest offering in The Beatles catalogue, a work based on a silly dogma that they wanted to “get back” to the rock-and-roll sound of their earlier years and eschew the “tricks” George Martin used to actually make them sound good.
Regardless of intent, there is nothing on any of the versions of Let It Be/Get Back that can be considered an important contribution to the art of music. It is indeed possible to explore one’s “roots” and create something artistic and enjoyable (McCartney partially achieved that on Flaming Pie), but here it’s just a bunch of musicians playing boring songs and occasionally pretending to have a good time. It’s still “the shittiest load of badly recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever” that they handed over to Phil Spector to make it even shittier.
Let It Be . . . Naked is stripped of Spectorisms, a simple trick that improved some of the songs but only raised the level of the work to mediocre. The fundamental problem with Let It Be is that the songs themselves aren’t very good. This version opens up with the strongest song of all, “Get Back,” where at least The Beatles showed they could still rock pretty well when they wanted to. After that, it’s a steep slide downhill to “I Dig a Pony,” a frittering piece of nonsense with zero musical value. George gets into the act with the perfectly unoriginal “For You Blue,” then McCartney serves up one of his most pompous easy listening numbers, “The Long and Winding Road.” After having written the exquisitely perfect “Hey Jude,” McCartney fell in love with himself on the piano and gave us that turkey along with the faux spirituality and deadly predictability of “Let It Be,” which ends this version of the album.
Before we get to the blessed ending, though, we do have a couple of songs of minor merit. “Two of Us” is a nice bouncy little song with an interesting bridge and typically excellent harmonies. “Across the Universe” is way, way better without Phil Spector’s chorus of angels turning the song into a creepy Hallmark card. Unfortunately, there are more bad songs than good: “I’ve Got a Feeling” (yawn), “I Me Mine” (preachy), “The One After 909” (should have been left behind in The Cavern) and “Don’t Let Me Down” (displaying John’s imagination in compete atrophy).
Let It Be . . . Naked is another big step backward, just as The White Album was a big step backward and the vastly overrated Abbey Road would prove to be. When this album was recorded, The Beatles hadn’t performed as a band in quite some time, and without George Martin’s tricks, they sound positively pedestrian and anything but tight. But the real weakness here is in the quality of the songs, and if you ain’t got the songs, you ain’t got shit . . . a word one frequently associates with any version of Let It Be/Get Back.
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The irony with the original “Let It Be” album was that Spector was basically employed to polish a turd. His contributions have been loathed but problem was, no matter what he – or anyone – did to these songs, it could not rescue or alter the plain fact that The Beatles sounded tired, fed up and uninspired cranking out a bunch of very poor songs.
Like yourself, I don’t like this project at all. This “naked” version does absolutely nothing to rewrite history for the better. I thought it was an utterly pointless album. Adding “Don’t Let Me Down” to it really adds to the misery – always hated that piece of turgid slop.
“Get Back” is by and far the best song here because it does have some spirit to it… they sound like they’re having fun playing it which is undetectable elsewhere… ESPECIALLY since for some inexplicable reason they chose to discard “Maggie Mae” – now, that may be a quickie nonsensical throwaway, yet that’s my fave track on the original album – why? The fun factor – for those 30 seconds or so, John and Paul are clearly having a ball, a rare moment of light relief.
The movie is no better… utterly depressing until the very end when they take to the rooftop. Then, and only then does the old Beatle “magic” kick in and it’s a pleasure to watch. Just a pity about the bloody dreary songs!
Great honest and spot on review.
[…] to see what a negative review looks like, I’d encourage them to see my reviews of Abbey Road, Let It Be and The White Album. I’d take Arthur over any of […]
I like some of those tunes that you like less – and I like this version of the record – as you say, it’s better without Spector’s meddling.
It’s definitely cleaner than Spector’s version and The Beatles were so tight as a band that they could make almost anything sound decent. Still, compared to the high standards they set for themselves, this was a letdown. Thanks for the comment!